TO EXPRESS THROUGH LITERATURE
Words and counterwords, the ones derived from feelings, the others from experience – these are all words of a writer, someone who has put pen to paper in order to share their thoughts. The most intriguing act of a writer, any artist in fact, is their capacity to allow the reader, the viewer to feel and perceive what isn’t theirs and then find their own. Literature and language are central to existence, to learn from and experience from. Hasitha Adhikariarachchi is one such writer whose words and thoughts we derive feelings from. Hasitha is both a playwright and an author, through her works of literature, she strives to ensure that others can enjoy the beauty of this powerful and meaningful form of creative expression and communication. Her plays and poems are those that she uses to express herself and create narratives for others to find joy in. She has delved into a range of writing endeavours, including poetry, monologues, oneact plays and short fiction.
Hasitha Adhikariarachchi is IT professional by day, and writer by night. In 2013 she was published in the Write to Reconcile II anthology in Sri Lanka and the winner of NSW Multilingual Poetry Slam in 2017, a featured artist in Parramatta Poetry Slam and has also been a panellist at the South Asian Film, Arts & Literature Festival 2017. Hasitha has also performed at the ‘Summer Slams for Social Justice’, at ‘Between the Covers: ‘Slide Night’ Performance’, as well as the ‘The Monologue Adventure – Voices of Women’. Furthermore, in 2018, Hasitha authored ‘A Moment’, a 10-min play which was performed at the ‘Crash Test Drama’ festival at Darlo Drama Sydney, whilst also winning the ‘Playwright Encouragement Award’. In August 2019, she was the literary curator of South Asian Film, Arts & Literature Festival (SAFAL FEST), sponsored by City of Ryde and Macquarie University. There she organised the South Asian Poetry Slam as well as panel discussions which brought together more than twenty writers and journalists of South Asian origin. Hasitha was also one of the ten writers selected for ‘The Citizen Writes’ project of ‘Carnival of the Bold’ festival funded by the City of Sydney. In conversation with Hasitha, we recall her journey, inspirations, recollect her accomplishments and discuss her endeavours.
Q| What inspires you to write, and in your writing, what is it that you pursue?
A| I’ve always strongly believed that experience is the well from which all creativity springs, and a writer can only achieve true depth and complexity in their work if they seek inspiration from these experiences. Being human is such a wonderful and yet confusing conundrum, and in my writings my only desire is to convey and capture the universality of these human experiences. I hope that my readers are comforted by the realisation that life isn’t about being in control all the time, but that embracing its unpredictability and uncertainty is a crucial part of the beauty of being alive.
Q| How did your interest in playwriting begin? And how is it different to your process of writing to that of your poetry?
A| One of the reasons I became interested in writing plays is because it is so dynamic. With poetry, the focus is upon creating a rhythmic and flowing cadence whilst also expressing emotions, feelings and thoughts. When I write poetry, and as cliché as this may sound, I just let my pen flow along the paper. With drama, on the other hand, I find I have to be much more structured in my approach. Poetry can be abstract, but a drama requires a plot so that it can make sense to the audience when it is acted out on stage. Whilst poetry is written entirely from my perspective, when playwriting I have to effectively convey the emotions and thoughts of each of the characters present in the play. Playwriting has been a challenging but exciting experience for me through which I have been able to further my artistic development.
Q| Tell us about the Citizen Writes Project and its influence upon your writing?
A| The Citizen Writes Project is a wonderful initiative, aiming to demonstrate the potential creative writing has to inspire, influence and make a change. Another aspect of its mission which is particularly important for me is that this project creates a platform for writers from a range of cultural backgrounds, especially those who have long been under-represented in traditional mainstream media. Creative writing is an incredibly powerful medium of expression, and this project celebrates diversity, creating an environment in which writers can inspire and be inspired. The opportunities it has provided have given me my own space in which I can flourish as a writer, and unapologetically represent not only myself but my heritage within my writings, and have my own small role in creating a more inclusive, understanding and diverse society.
Q| You were the literary curator of SAFAL. Share with us the guiding principles you pursued in your capacity as the literary curator in a multi-arts festival and your experience of it.
SAFAL is an acronym for the South Asian Film, Arts and Literature Festival, and is an initiative that strives to raise awareness of and celebrate the immense artistic diversity of the South Asians in Australia. In 2019, I was delighted to be the literary curator, and I undertook the responsibility with the utmost seriousness and dedication. I ensured that I selected writers that had written in a range of mediums, such as poetry, playwriting, or story-writing, and who through their work reflected the beauty of their unique South Asian heritage. Many people assume that the South Asian region is a vast monolith which is uniform in its culture, and I hoped to dispel that myth through the power of literature that South Asia is a breath-taking melting pot of traditions, cultures and people. The experience of being in a movement towards fostering understanding and inclusivity amongst people was a source of great pride and excitement for me.
Q| Can you share some of the Sri Lankan publications and authors that have influenced and inspired you and in what capacity?
A| Shyam Selvadurai, who has received international acclaim for his novels and who has been translated into numerous languages. I love practically everything he has written, such as Funny Boy and Hungry Ghosts, and as someone with a Sri Lankan heritage they resonate with me deeply. Another one I have to mention is Sonia Deraniyagala's memoir, ‘Wave’, an astonishingly moving and eloquent piece of writing. These works have so seamlessly integrated the cultural inspirations and the influence of a Sri Lankan heritage with the raw emotions of human nature and experience in order to create truly universal pieces of art, and I aspire to achieve the same in my own writings.
From writing plays to authoring poems, Hasitha’s plethora of achievements and ventures are intriguing in its essence to inspire and capacity of expression. Her direction and narrative as literary curator and pursuance of her literary dreams and publications are contributions of her inbuilt passion of literature and we find she completes them with much finesse and dexterity. Hasitha’s triumph at the Citizen Writes Project have allowed her creative flair to flourish and provided a space of creative freedom and expression. In introspection, we find Hasitha’s literary prowess beauteous and laudable. As an emerging artist, we find Hasitha’s journey and road to success is one that brims with great literary pieces and acknowledgement.